Friday, February 1, 2008

My Unrelenting Heros

Bahram Baizai.

Filmmaker, Playwrite, theater director, disliked by the government, his films break box-office records, if they get a permit to screen, they do not get a permit! Baizai doesn't compromise his films, he refuses to cut them to fit the guidelines. Baizai is in many ways Iran's Kubrick.

His art focuses on two themes:

1) Reconstruction and recreation of Iran's history, myth, folklore, ancient epics.

2) Persian Woman; her tragic drama, her triumphant victory, her transcendence above the petty traditions imposed by none other than male insecurities.

Baizai is the founder of modern theater in Iran. He uses the language in its most elegant and attractive form. His prose proxy poetry. His prose arise from the wealth of Persia's history.

Despite all restrictions, despite being disfavored by the funding agencies, despite being kept in dark and away from the spotlight, Baizai "remains" an icon of Iran's cultural progress. If they don't let him make films, he stages plays. If they deny him theater, he writes plays. He is unstoppable.

In his "New Anthology of The Book of Kings"--considered an icon of Persian renaissance after the Arab Invasion--, Baizai wrote on Ferdowsi's behalf:
"Beat me, your stones and flogs are nothing to me
I have not praised you, and I have not brought your fathers out of obscurity
I did not lift your lowest stature to sky
I called you wordless
And I didn't make yours the language of thought
I did not dust your lost face
I did not recapture your lost empire with the magic of my words
Beat me, because your blade is more pleasant than the damnation of the nation for whom I aged."
free translation from Mas'ood Loghman, Review of Baizai's latest play: Afra
Iranian poet Simin Behbahani uses strictly traditional forms to express progressive ideas.
Iranian poet Simin Behbahani uses strictly traditional
forms to express progressive ideas.

Photo Credit: Photo By Razieh Raaz Khalil

A Poet Who 'Never Sold Her Pen or Soul'

Saturday, June 10, 2006; Page A16

Simin Behbahani

The voice of poet Simin Behbahani rises, soothing the wounds of Iranians betrayed by a revolution that has curtailed their rights and failed to deliver social justice.

To stay alive, you must slay silence . . .

o pay homage to being, you must sing .

At 79, the revered poet has only peripheral vision, but she still writes. To defy the ravages of macular degeneration, she records her verses vertically, down the edge of the paper.

She described an incident in March when riot police approached her during a gathering in Tehran to mark International Women's Day. "Hey, don't hurt this lady. She is Simin Behbahani," a student in the crowd protested. "If you touch her, I will set myself on fire."

His outburst enraged the police. One of the officers lashed Behbahani's right arm and back with a whip and then beat her with a club that emitted electric shocks, she recalled. A passing policeman recognized her, intervened and bundled her into a taxi.

Sitting composedly in the solarium of her niece's home in McLean recently, Behbahani discussed her work and life through an interpreter. She was on her 15th tour of the United States, with speaking events in Washington, New York, Los Angeles and other cities, and will travel on to Canada.

"I have always been drawn to social issues. Even before the eruption of the revolution, while under the shah, I was also suffering," she said, referring to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who was overthrown in the Islamic revolution of 1979. "There was no democracy in Iran. Even then, we had censorship."

Before the revolution, her poetry dealt with poverty, orphans and corruption, reflecting her concern for the outcast, the marginalized and the neglected. Her recent work has touched on the themes of freedom of expression and the rights of minorities and prisoners.

"I will identify her as the most iconic Iranian poet alive," said Farzaneh M. Milani , director of Studies in Women and Gender at the University of Virginia. "I can really say she has become a cultural hero, and she is treated as such outside and inside her country." Milani, an authority on Behbahani, teaches a course on Iranian female poets.

"She reminds me of T.S. Eliot," Milani said. "She dives deep into her culture and literature, and the product is a truly modern outlook on the role of the individual, concern for democracy and human rights. The form is traditional, but the perspective and poetic persona are quite progressive."

Behbahani is known for her ghazals , sonnet-like love poems distinguishable by their special rhyme scheme and lilting lyrics. Traditionally, the ghazal featured a male poet romancing a woman. Behbahani reversed the roles; in her poems, men are the objects of desire.

Source Washington Post


Shahla Sherkat :

(Born 1956 is a prominent Iranian feminist author, journalist and one of the pioneers of Iranian women's movement.

Shahla Sherkat is founder and publisher of Zanan (Women) magazine, which focuses on the concerns of Iranian women and continually tests the political waters with its edgy coverage of everything from reform politics to domestic abuse to sex. Zanan has been the most important Iranian women's journal after Iranian revolution.

Sherkat has had to appear in court on several occasions when Zanan's content was considered to be pushing boundaries too far. In 2001 she was sentenced to four months in prison for attending a conference in Berlin at which the future of politics in Iran was discussed following the success of reformist candidates in a parliamentary election.


Shirin Ebadi

(Persian: شیرین عبادی - Širin Ebâdi; born 21 June 1947) is an Iranian lawyer and human rights activist and founder of Children's Rights Support Association in Iran. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her significant and pioneering efforts for democracy and human rights, especially women's and children's rights.

As a lawyer, she is known for taking up cases of liberal and dissident figures who have fallen foul of the judiciary, one of the bastions of hardline power in Iran. She has represented the family of Dariush Forouhar, a dissident intellectual and politician who was found stabbed to death at his home. His wife, Parvaneh Eskandari, was also killed at the same time. The couple were among several dissidents who died in a spate of grisly murders that terrorized Iran's intellectual community.

Ebadi also represented the family of Ezzat Ebrahimnezhad, the only officially accepted case of murder in the Iranian student protests of July 1999. In the process, in 2000 Ebadi was accused of distributing the videotaped confession of Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, a former member of one of the main pressure lobby forces, Ansar-e Hezbollah. Ebrahimi accused his former associates of attacking members of President Khatami's cabinet on orders of high-level conservative authorities. Ebadi and Rohami were sentenced to five years in jail and suspension of their law licenses for sending Ebrahimi's videotaped deposition to Islamic President Khatami and the head of the Islamic judiciary.

Ebadi has also defended various cases of child abuse cases and has also established two non-governmental organizations in Iran, the Society for Protecting the Rights of the ChildDefenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC). She also drafted the original text of a law against physical abuse of children, which was passed by the Iranian parliament in 2002. (SPRC) and the

Ebadi has defended a few cases dealing with bans of periodicals (including the cases of Habibollah Peyman, Abbas Marufi, and Faraj Sarkouhi).

She has also been the representative for the family of the murdered freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian activist and whistle blower Akbar Ganji, the Iranian American scholar Haleh Esfandiari, who was jailed in Tehran on charges of velvet-revolutioning, and also represented the arrested activists of the 1-million campaign!

In 2004 Shirin Ebadi filled a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Treasury because of restrictions she faced over publishing her memoir in the United States. After a long legal battle, Shirin Ebadi won and was able to publish her memoir in the United States.[7]


Arab republic of Egypt said...

We have 4 noble prize winners in Egypt one in literature in 1988!! + 10 candidates one of them is considered the best short story writer in 20 century. Never won the noble prize because of his extreme Arab nationalism.

I wonder why you think yourselves something in Iran, despite of the fact that your achievments is nothiong comapred to Egypt's and Arab's

Naj said...

Amro Al-Albino!

Shut up! :))

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Zeinobia said...

what shall I say , Amr please do not speak on behalf of the Arabs and EGyptians , already if you are so sick from all things Iranians why do you come to Naj's blog in the first place
Why do you just leave us alone ?? you got your own blog ,you say what ever want there L :(
Well Naj I wish I see films for Bahram Baizai esepcailly about ancient epics ,you got many historical epics
The only Iranian drama I saw was on Al-Manar TV , The Holy Mary Tv SHow and it was one of the best and most successful Iranian TV series in the Arab TVs
I like how you watch out for the smallest details ,because I compared between it and the Passion of the CHrist and I was surprised how accurate the customs and the sets were
Al-Manar is our only gate to Iranian films and Tv series , the problem is that they chose what the IRI likes :(

Zeinobia said...

Naj please this comment but how you got the info of Amr , because he is killing me

Naj said...

Hi Zeinobia, good to see you.

I wonder how the new Iran-Egypt peace is being treated in Egypt. In Iran people are happy about it.

I am happy to know Iranian films are playing in Egypt. Please tell me what you have seen and what you liked. In Iran, almost ALL TV productions are government funded.

Some of their programs are good.

Naj said...

By the way, re Baizai, don't hold your breath to see his films. Even Iranians cannot see them!

You should be able to find Bashu though.

Naj said...

I wonder why you think yourselves something in Iran, despite of the fact that your achievments is nothiong comapred to Egypt's and Arab's


It seems that it is "you" who are the one constantly comparing and contrasting. Iranians really do not care about Arabs failures or successes!

But, let me give you a very simple arithmetic fact.

1) The number of Arab speakers in the world is multiple of the number of Persian speakers.

2) Arab countries have been colonized by the Brits, the French and the Americans. For example, in Egypt you have an American university. In Iran we do not. Therefore, most Iranian intellectuals do not read/write/speak in/for the English and the French. Therefore the cultural exposure is much less, therefore, there are more Arabs (or Indians) who act/speak/write like their Western Ex-Masters.

I hope that clears your head a little bit!

Larry Gambone said...

Thank you for exposing us to these great, courageous and creative people. Sadly, we know so little of Iran and its culture here in North America.

And Amr, Arabs have a world historic culture, so do Iranians, so quit being jealous!

Renegade Eye said...

Very good post about courageous people.

I have anti-Iranian Egyptians at my blog as well.

goatman said...

I recently saw a documentary about Baizai on link TV (satellite). He is taking chances with his art but it will be worth it. Wish I could see some of his work, but little gets out into my part of the world.
I hadn't realized that Teheran was nestled near beautiful mountains into which one can easily walk.
You have a beautiful country with people to match!

Naj said...

Goatman, you didn't know??? hmmm you have to visit neoresistance more often then ;)

Yes Tehran is built on the skirts of Alburz mountain chain. It's a very hilly city and at night it kind of looks like LA hills. Except that in LA you have large houses and mantions, in Tehran you have really luxurious apartments.

Sigh ... I LOVE Tehran!

Vertigo said...

"Bashu, the Little Stranger" by Beizai is by far my favorite Iranian film.